Forum Investigation: Bengston's Mice Studies

#1
Hello all,

You will recall, if you have been following up on the latest monster thread, "Are there any paranormal phenomena AT ALL??", that a discussion on Bengston's healing studies cropped up, in which I expressed a considerable degree of skepticism. For those who did not see those posts, here is the subject of discussion: William F. Bengston, a professor of Sociology at St. Joseph's College in New York, has conducted experiments on an "energy healing" technique that he claims to show is 100% effective on clinically untreatable cancers in mice. I was astounded at the claim, but subsequent investigation revealed it was not simple to debunk.

In this thread, therefore, I hope to extend my previous efforts; to undertake, in a critical and open-minded fashion, and with the help of others, a more involved investigation of those experiments. Why? Because recently—and contrary to a claim I made in the previous thread—I discovered that this research had been reproduced, with similar results. In several labs. In ten experiments (including the first four)*. With two different types of cancer. And I was flabbergasted. If their results can be explained, the effect size alone of these experiments demands a truly massive systematic error—or, a little less plausibly, a miraculous psychical effect on a scale unlike any we have seen before.

I'll be frank: I expect error. But I must also accept evidence.

* This claim is in the descriptive text of a presentation Bengston did for the SSE, but the important thing to note is that it does not appear that all of these experiments have been published, and it is unclear how many were independently conducted. Bengston mentioned unpublished experiments of his own during the talk.

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I list below several resources for understanding this study, and encourage participants to read the popular articles before the journal reports; they will help the material in the scientific papers "stick". In my next post, I will sift through possible explanations, including those offered by Linda, exposing my own arguments for their plausibility or implausibility (but it may be a day or two).

Lastly, folks, this is worth your time. If Bengston is correct, he has found a remarkable cure for cancer that we cannot afford to avoid, and if he is wrong, we will still learn something about the evaluation of experiments, by studying his results, which should prove useful to our further enquiries.

Popular exposition:

Bengston's talk at the Society for Scientific Exploration

http://www.examiner.com/article/can-cancer-cures-come-from-healing-hands
A popular article on a replication of Bengston's research with Bengston and Moga

http://books.google.com/books/about/The_Energy_Cure.html?id=XGmnjoFUH5sC
Bengston's book on Google Play

Original papers:

https://www.fourmilab.ch/documents/gtpp/Documents/jse_14_3_bengston.pdf
The original Bengston & Krinsley (2000) paper

http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/acm.2007.6300
The Bengston & Moga (2007) replication

http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/acm.2008.0100
Report of informal experiment in a letter-to-the-editor, by Moga & Zhou

Skeptical resources:

http://skepstat.blogspot.com/2007/09/no-thanks-i-dont-need-any-treatment-ive.html
A government statistician takes issue with the research design, in a deliberately over-the-top manner

http://www.badscience.net/2007/06/alternative-therapists-struggle-with-the-placebo-effect-once-more/
A brief discussion by Ben Goldrace, with some interesting ideas in the comments

http://forums.randi.org/archive/index.php/t-218687.html
The JREF thread on this

Other information:

http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/26/11_Part_1/2297.full.pdf
A study carried out with the same strain of mice and the same cancer

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Please list any additional resources you encounter that may prove of use. I would particularly like help locating further published replications of Bengston's work, if they exist. Also post arguments/information relevant to analyzing his experiments, and any information that may be useful in determining the answer to the critical questions: (1) was the cancer correctly induced? and (2) does it really cause mouse death in less than 27 days, reliably, under Bengston's study conditions? If the answer to both of these questions is "yes", IMO all argument about the importance of controls and experimental design will not suffice to explain the observed mass remission of a clinically untreatable cancer.

Also please avoid posting distracting, flippant, or off-topic material.
 
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